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From earning six figures to hoping for $7 an hour

  • Story Highlights
  • 1,200 people hoping for a job applied at Colorado store hiring 150
  • Mortgage broker once earned six figures, hopes for $7- to $12-per-hour job
  • Store openings are rare with retail sales down for six straight months
  • A single mother of three is excited after getting a part-time job
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By Jim Spellman
CNN
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AURORA, Colorado (CNN) -- In her best year as a mortgage broker, Laura Glick says she made "six figures." This week she was one of more than 1,200 people attending a job fair and applying for one of 150 jobs paying between $7 and $12 an hour at a new Kohl's department store in a Denver, Colorado, suburb.

Jerell Hines, left, and his twin Jeri Hines think their interview went well at the job fair.

Laura Glick says she has a good resume but even getting an interview is difficult.

She has been out of work for seven months and never thought it would take her this long to find a job. It's not the kind of job she thought she would be applying for, but she has a case of the jitters just the same.

"Your heart starts to race, and you get nervous even though it is not some big job like you used to have," she said. "I'll take anything at this point."

Glick is not alone. Many other people have lost their jobs in this tough economy.

A record number of jobless claims was set last month, when first-time claims hit a 26-year high of 589,000 claims in one week. Last week's claims also broke the half-million mark, 524,000, according to a new government report cited on CNNMoney.com.

Glick, 29, has been living on about $1400 a month in unemployment benefits, barely enough to cover her rent and health insurance. To get by she has stopped eating out, given up cigarettes and has stopped taking her pets to the vet for regular checkups.

"Its feels very degrading, some of the places I'm applying," Glick said. "It's really difficult, and its hard to stay positive, but that's the only way you're going to get something is staying positive. And I'm hoping everything happens for a reason and the doors that have been closed are going to be the ones that lead to open ones." Video Watch could you be an entrepreneur »

Job seekers have been pouring into a hotel ballroom all week for one of the prized jobs. They fill out paperwork and then are taken up to a hotel room in groups of ten or so. The beds have been removed from the room, and they sit in a circle while store managers holding clipboards ask questions. Most are told they will hear back within three weeks.

But some get word right away.

"Hey guess what. I got the job," exclaimed Rebecca Erickson, speaking to her mother on her cell phone. When the other applicants filed out the managers asked her to stay behind and offered her a job. She was so excited she forgot to ask how much the job pays.

"It's only part-time, but I'll take it. There's always room for advancement, and with it being a new store opening you never know, a full-time position may open up," she said.

Erickson, a 31-year old single mother of three, has been unemployed for about two months and has been supporting her family on about $1400 a month in unemployment benefits and food stamps.

"It's awesome; It's great; I love it," she said. "To know that I got a job and they have had over a thousand applications come in for this job, and to know that I am the one to get it is just awesome."

A store opening such as this one is rare. With unemployment at 7.2 percent nationwide and retail sales down for six straight months, there are more going-out-of-business signs than grand-opening signs.

Most of the applicants came alone, but a set of identical twins came here as a team.

"Where ever he goes, I go," said Jeri Hines, here with his brother Jerell. The 23-year-olds seem to always have a smile on their faces and insist on working together. They have spent the past year doing odd jobs such as raking leaves and shoveling snow while working on a comic book.

"Its about a girl running around looking for treasure," Jerell said.

As the Hines twins make their way up to the interview room, their strategy is simple.

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"Be really energetic and be sure they know everything they can about you," Jerell Hines said

On the way out their smiles are still in place, they flash a thumbs up sign and in unison call out, "Keep your fingers crossed."

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